At some point in the last few years I joined the Facebook group ‘Get Fit Over 40’. I had foolishly hoped that it might tell me how to get fit in my 40s but so far it has been a succession of contrary posts, one day telling me that I’m beautiful just as I am and the next berating me for not putting my shoes on and sweating off my disgusting fat pockets. Mostly though it’s pictures of women who don’t look even close to 40 flashing their pelvic bones.
The 40-45 years were definitely something of a struggle when it came to workout motivation and weight loss. I even went through a phase where I thought I could just do Bikram yoga and take walks around town lake. I was only a step away from joining a book club when I was saved by Crossfit. Two years later I was saved from Crossfit by my coach Jen Shaw, creator of LIFT for Women.
The 45 and beyond years have been even harder. In biological terms, this is when a woman’s brain tells her body that it has served its only useful purpose and is now irrelevant and should go and find a comfy place to lie down for the next 40 years. Bones, muscles, metabolism all oblige. So you have to fight back against your lazy sack of a body before 50 comes and brings a whole new set of problems like bunion surgery and tankinis.
As everyone knows, snappy titles are one of the first things to go with age, so with that in mind I present:
Lessons Learned About Myself in my late 40s from Working Out with a Bunch of Women Older, Younger and Stronger than Me.
1. Embrace the irrational fear of catastrophic injuries.
If you have never previously feared breaking your neck while in a handstand or dropping a barbell on your head, get ready once you hit 45. While performing perfect box jumps, your mind will automatically flick over to that image of the 20 year old who scraped her shin so badly when doing box jumps that the bone was exposed. She got stitched up and went straight back to her workout but you will revert to step-ups and wonder if your coach will let you do box jumps on an ottoman.
2. Be the only one of your age in your group.
This is a tricky one to control but important for your self-esteem. You will not be able to blame your slowness or weakness on your age if there are others in the same age range who consistently beat you. Try to find at least one thing that you are better at than these annoying women at and make a big deal about it, even if this is just a quad stretch. If she is older AND faster and stronger than you, give up and move to a different workout time.
3. Always compete. With everyone. All the time.
Show your wisdom and maturity by telling everyone that you are only competing against yourself. Younger athletes will be envious and a little confused by your zen-like response. When in an actual competition, say that you are just doing it for ‘fun’ but on the inside plan to crush every single one of your competitors. Make sure you look like you’re just having fun by wearing a silly costume or putting on crazy knee-high socks.
4. Do extra homework on your triceps.
Flappy underarm bags are a total late-40s giveaway and cannot be reversed once you reach 50. Work on these in the privacy of your own home. Tricep dips only look bad arse in the gym if you can do them olympics style on a set of rings. You are not one of these people.
5. Avoid the ‘just you wait and see’ temptation.
This is one of the easiest old person clues, much in the same vein as ‘back in my day’ or ‘when I was your age’. As much as you want to complain about how long it takes you to recover these days and how you can’t lose your stomach fat, it will be more satisfying to wait it out for another 20 years and say I told you so. Yes, this will require you to still be going to the gym when almost 70 years old, but at that point you will be applauded and called inspiring simply for turning up. No-one will expect you to actually do anything.
6. Be prepared for things to hurt more.
This is not strictly true, you’ll just become more of a baby about pain and will treat it as an indication that something is wrong rather than believing all that Marines nonsense. That pain may well be weakness leaving your body, but it is probably taking a herniated disk along with it.
7. Do not talk about what you used to be able to do.
Much like the 1970s and what Austin used to be like before 2001, no-one under the age of 40 cares about how fast you could once run a mile or how many pull-ups you could do in 2004. If you find yourself doing this, quickly change the subject to something that will interest your younger audience. Google these subjects in advance.
8. Don’t set outlandish goals.
During goal-setting sessions, be very conservative. But make it sound like you’re setting stretch goals. Today’s 20 and 30 year olds do not act like they’re supposed to and have a horrible tendency to hold you accountable to both dietary and athletic goals. At your age, unrealistic goals are not motivating, just highly irritating. Under-set and over-achieve.
9. Do not be a Master.
Some competitions have a Masters division. Much like the term spinster, you do not want to accept this label until there’s no other choice. Or when you’re 50. The Masters division tends to attract the freakishly strong and you will pale by comparison (see Point 2). Stick with the masses, where you can still play the age card.
10. Get pregnant.
If you are in a gym with a fair smattering of 20 and 30 year olds, there will be pregnant women. These women will be ridiculously strong and even though you know it’s unfair because there’s two of them and only one of you, you cannot and must not state this out loud. As all your eggs are now dead, eat as though you are eating for two and then during workouts gently pat your food baby while winking at the youngsters.
And finally. If you are in your 40s, not pregnant and have bingo wing triceps, please join me for a LIFT session at 6:30am M/W/F at Travis County Gym. If you cannot meet all 3 criteria, please go to 9am.